Biomedical researchers break new ground in fight against multiple sclerosis

September 19, 2016
Credit: University of Maryland

Researchers from the University of Maryland Fischell Department of Bioengineering and the University of Maryland School of Medicine report a new way to "turn off" the harmful immune attack that occurs during autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS), while keeping healthy functions of the immune system intact.

"Our lab is combining immunology and nanotechnology to reprogram how the responds to self-cells in the brain that are mistakenly attacked during MS," said BIOE Assistant Professor Christopher Jewell, corresponding author on the new report. "The finding, conducted in cells and pre-clinical animal models of MS, could lead to new approaches for reversing paralysis in MS, or better therapies for other autoimmune diseases."

The group's findings were published September 13 in the journal Cell Reports. Collaborator Jonathan Bromberg, MD, PhD, a professor of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine said, "The studies show it is possible to treatand cure inflammatory disease with a single dose of therapeutics loaded in biodegradable polymers targeted directly to lymph nodes – the tissues that coordinate in the body." 

In MS, the immune system incorrectly recognizes myelin that insulates and protects nerves fibers in the brain. Immune cells enter the brain and attack, leading to slow loss of motor function and other complications. Current therapies for MS work by decreasing the activity of the immune system; but, they do so in a broadly-suppressive way that often leaves patients vulnerable to infection. There are also no cures for MS, type 1 diabetes, and other

"The goal of our work – and that of others in the field – is to expand cells that are both myelin-specific and regulatory in nature," said Lisa Tostanoski, first author on the paper. "The hope is that these cells can directly suppress inflammation without targeting healthy immune function."

Jewell's team is working to reprogram the function of lymph nodes: instead of generating inflammatory cells that attack myelin, the lymph nodes are "instructed" to promote regulatory immune cells that control the attack against myelin. To carry out the "reprogramming," degradable polymer particles that incorporate regulatory signals are delivered to lymph nodes using a unique intra-lymph node injection technique. Once in thelymph nodes, these particles slowly release immune signals to promote regulatory cells that mature and migrate to the central nervous system to suppress the attack against myelin.

In order to test their strategy, the team is using two rodent models of MS. The results are promising thus far, demonstrating that a single particle treatment can permanently reverse paralysis. Importantly, these effects were found to be myelin-specific, and correlated with local changes in the function and types of cells in and the central nervous system. 

"Moving forward, our team is working to show the therapeutic effects result from repair and remyelination in the brain," Jewell said. "That represents a goal that is a critical criterion to improve on human MS therapies." 

To support this breakthrough research, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society has awarded the team more than $600,000 in research funding. 

"This innovative research has the potential to open up a new, highly selective approach to treating ," said Bruce F. Bebo, Ph.D., Executive Vice President of Research at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. "We are pleased to have helped launch this work with early pilot and full research grants, and hope that the further research required to translate these results to people is equally successful."

"This kind of institutional collaboration can yield tremendous results," said UM SOM Dean E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, who is also vice president for medical affairs at the University of Maryland and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor. "If we are to tackle the most critical and complex diseases, we must utilize multiple specialties across departments, schools and campuses to develop new treatments."

Explore further: Research reveals how lymph nodes expand during disease

More information: Lisa H. Tostanoski et al. Reprogramming the Local Lymph Node Microenvironment Promotes Tolerance that Is Systemic and Antigen Specific, Cell Reports (2016). DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2016.08.033

Related Stories

Research reveals how lymph nodes expand during disease

October 22, 2014
Cancer Research UK and UCL scientists have discovered that the same specialised immune cells that patrol the body and spot infections also trigger the expansion of immune organs called lymph nodes, according to a study published ...

An antibody-based drug for multiple sclerosis

July 20, 2016
Inserm Unit U919, directed by Prof. Denis Vivien ("Serine Proteases and Physiopathology of the Neurovascular Unit") has developed an antibody with potential therapeutic effects against multiple sclerosis. The study, directed ...

Intestinal worms boost immune system in a surprising way

May 5, 2016
In order to fight invading pathogens, the immune system uses "outposts" throughout the body, called lymph nodes. These are small, centimeter-long organs that filter fluids, get rid of waste materials, and trap pathogens, ...

New step toward determining the cause of multiple sclerosis

December 15, 2015
Researchers at the University of Toronto have found another clue in understanding the cause of what drives Multiple Sclerosis (MS) disease. Their findings were published today in Immunity.

PET detects neuroinflammation in multiple sclerosis

June 13, 2016
The triggers of autoimmune inflammation in multiple sclerosis (MS) have eluded scientists for many years, but molecular imaging is bringing researchers closer to identifying them, while providing a means of evaluating next-generation ...

The innate immune system modulates the severity of multiple sclerosis

November 2, 2015
Multiple sclerosis, a debilitating neurological disease, is triggered by self-reactive T cells that successfully infiltrate the brain and spinal cord where they launch an aggressive autoimmune attack against myelin, the fatty ...

Recommended for you

How a poorly explored immune cell may impact cancer immunity and immunotherapy

November 17, 2017
The immune cells that are trained to fight off the body's invaders can become defective. It's what allows cancer to develop. So most research has targeted these co-called effector T-cells.

Asthma attacks reduced in tree-lined urban neighborhoods

November 17, 2017
People living in polluted urban areas are far less likely to be admitted to hospital with asthma when there are lots of trees in their neighbourhood, a study by the University of Exeter's medical school has found.

How the immune system identifies invading bacteria

November 16, 2017
The body's homeland security unit is more thorough than any airport checkpoint. For the first time, scientists have witnessed a mouse immune system protein frisking a snippet of an invading bacterium. The inspection is far ...

Can asthma be controlled with a vitamin supplement?

November 16, 2017
The shortness of breath experienced by the nearly 26 million Americans who suffer from asthma is usually the result of inflammation of the airways. People with asthma typically use albuterol for acute attacks and inhaled ...

Newly found immune defence could pave way to treat allergies

November 16, 2017
Scientists have made a fundamental discovery about how our body's immune system clears harmful infections.

Study finds asthma and food allergies predictable at age 1

November 15, 2017
Children at one year old who have eczema or atopic dermatitis (AD) and are sensitized to an allergen are seven times more likely than other infants to develop asthma, and significantly more likely to have a food allergy by ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.